Vinegar in Cooking


Garrett R., Managing Editor

Vinegar (CH3COOH), a seasoning as old as alcohol brewing, has been used since ancient Sumer and Babylon. “But why is vinegar so special?” you may ask. I am glad you asked my humble pupil. Come, let me chauffeur you across the Styx, Lethe, Acheron, Phlegethon, and Cocytus of cooking and illuminate the secrets of vinegar.

The oldest dish I prepared with vinegar is an ancient 4,000-year-old recipe for a Babylonian stew called Tuhu, traditionally served for the Babylonian New Year. While preparing the stew, I used a mixture of German Weiss beer and a sour beer with a healthy bit of vinegar to replicate the Babylonian beer taste within the thick, delicious broth of the stew. It tasted both vivid and slightly acidic. While eating, I decided to use a combination of white wine vinegar, salt, and oil for seasoning to be as authentic as possible. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any garum (an ancient style of fish sauce that was heavily popularized by the Roman Empire) on hand nor enough time to make it.

For millennia, vinegar has not only been heavily used in cooking, but also for hydration purposes. Let me explain. In the olden days, it was difficult to find safe and clean water. Therefore, people improvised by using either tea, coffee, beer, wine, and in some cases, vinegar, making it an important substance in the ancient world. For example, in Rome, vinegar was seen as a great way to cure dehydration and stay healthy.

My confidence in the powers and wonders of vinegar is so deeply rooted that I insist that you try it straight away. Go to a random pantry, not necessarily your own, and grab some vinegar to splash a bit on a nice salad. You won’t regret it. Or make some amazing Babylonian tuh’u, an excellent stew made with lamb, beer, and beets. After cooking the tuh’u you can put in a little bit of olive oil and salt just to compliment the taste of the vinegar that I already know you put in.

I hope after reading my absolute slam dunk of a piece, you will rediscover and appreciate vinegar as well as regularly use it in cooking. Together, we have uncovered the sacred and glorious historic art of vinegar. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be seeing you in my next article.